Tuesday, January 14, 2014

August: Osage County: Movie Review

Two great scenes defining three women and a whole cast of greatness.
“August: Osage County” is set in Oklahoma during the summer. The time of year when the temperature and tempers rise up. But of course sometimes it is provoked. The film is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, so we can guarantee that this dysfunctional family will come to a head with no easy route to escape. 2013

Directed by: John Wells

Screenplay by: Tracy Letts

Starring: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts

Photos courtesy of eOne Films.
The always great Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston who is not an easy woman to live with. One daughter has stayed (but she gets told she doesn’t wear enough makeup), another daughter has run away and not grown up, and the oldest daughter escaped to live her own life. While her husband is ready to kill himself, and so he does in the first scene of the movie.

This brings the entire clan back together and life is going to get worse for all of those still living. Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the daughter who stayed but she has a secret that shows she’s ready to move on with her life; Barbara (Julia Roberts) is the eldest daughter and she’s returning home with an ex-husband (Ewan McGregor) and a teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) who’s in the midst of rebellion. Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the middle daughter who’s coming home with a new fiancé (Dermot Mulroney) who in one quick introductory scene shows that he is bad news. Violet’s sister (Margo Martindale) and brother-in-law (Chris Cooper) are also there to help. But oranges also don’t fall far from the tree and we meet their son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is more abused than all three Weston sisters combined.

I can understand the complaints of this movie being too slow, as it does take a while for things to come to a boil. Violet seems to love watching her clan simmer. But for fans of movies based on plays we know the action will come eventually. There are two big breaking points. The first occurs at night with Violet sleeping and the rest of the characters responding to recent drama of their own doing. This drives half of the cast away. The second occurs with just three remaining Weston women and Violet just sitting there watching chaos unfold that she created but did not explicitly cause.

All the acting and all the characters were powerful, specifically Streep and Roberts as mother and daughter who, simultaneously, were as similar and as separate as you can get. The final scene was breathtaking in its simple execution and conclusive word on who really takes after whom.

There is one character who has not yet been mentioned. The one character not played by a Hollywood superstar and the one character who didn’t belong to this dysfunctional family. Johnna (Misty Upham) is a Native American hired at the beginning of the film to watch over Violet. And so she does. She is present in every defining scene and provides a point of view for those who don’t feel like they belong in “August: Osage County”.
Best of 2013